The Nemesis Vector

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A rough ride home.

Chapter 18 (v.1) - 18,19

Submitted: July 10, 2017

Reads: 201

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 10, 2017

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“Mums the word, I saw nothing, aliens what aliens?”… He laughs out loud.

With the engines fully powered up, the Intrepid moves quickly away from the space station and as it does, the ISS grows smaller and then finally disappears into the black backdrop of space.

Earth, often called the blue marble, fills their field of vision through the cockpit windows… a magnificent view of terra firma after being in space for such a long time. From their vantage, Earth’s colors are brilliant; deep blue oceans, large wispy, white clouds forming in the jet streams and the rich browns and greens of Earth’s land masses are a welcomed site. For the first time all day, they feel they can each breathe a little easier, finally feeling safe after leaving the alien threat far behind them.

 

Chapter 18

“Mrs. Scott, the doctor will see you now.”

“Thank you!” turning to her Mom with a half-smile, “This appointment shouldn’t take too long mom… they just want to check my weight and remind me of how much I will need to lose after this baby is born.”

Now being so close to her due date, and being a ‘high risk’ pregnancy, Sahara is seeing the doctor every two weeks.

“How are you today Sahara?” Doctor Kennedy asks. “Feeling okay?”

“Feeling fat, but other than that, I feel fine.”

“Couldn’t help but notice that you seem to look a little more tired than usual… are you sleeping okay?”

“Fine doctor… fine.”

“Sahara? I know you wouldn’t just tell me something that you thought I wanted to hear… would you?”

“Well… to be honest, I haven’t been sleeping well… have had horrible dreams waking me up at night. I’m worried about my husband.”

“I thought he would be home by now… when is he scheduled to return?”

“I wish I knew… can’t seem to get any answers out of NASA… and it is all so stressful. I just haven’t felt that there has been anything normal about this space flight. I try to put it out of my mind and figure that it just hormones and the fact that I’m awfully lonely, but my intuition tells me there is something more.”

“Sahara… you need to relax. I do believe it is just hormones, and of course you are lonely. I’m sure that is all it is… nothing more. If there was more to it and something to worry about, I am sure that NASA would let you know. Now tell me, on a brighter note, are you SURE you don’t want to have a little sneak peek? I can see very clearly today,” the doctor remarks with a smile.

“You know… I want to in the worst way, but Rory would never forgive me if I cheated… never. However, you could tell me the number of heart beats per minute of the baby, couldn’t you?”

“Well, I certainly could, but you aren’t going to believe in that old wives tale are you?”

“Maybe…” Sahara laughs.

“Well, I’ll tell you… but I will also tell you; don’t go out buying furnishings in the appropriate color until after the baby is born as this method is only accurate about 10% of the time.”

“Okay, I won’t… tell me!”

Walking back into the waiting room, Sahara sees her Mom waiting and looking through a Cosmopolitan magazine.

“Ready to go Mom?”

“Sure honey… what did he say?”

“He said I looked tired, but that I was fine. He told me to try and get more rest and not to worry about Rory… that it was just hormones. I hope he is right. He also told me the number of fetal heart beats per minute…”

“And?”

“I’d better start thinking of a few names for a girl, if he is right.”

“I really like Jasmine and also Ariel…”

“No!  I’m not naming a daughter after a Disney princess! It had better be a boy.”

Laughing, they walk to the elevator.

“Feel like lunch? Maybe somewhere down by the pier? Someplace with a view so we can both relax… what do you say?”

“Sounds good Mom… I want you to know that I really appreciate you… you have been so helpful through all of this, and I never tell you often enough, but I love you.”

“I love you too Sahara… I love you too.”

 

Chapter 19

 

The mental holiday from the recent pandemonium was welcomed. Looking out at the Earth felt familiar but remarkable… they were heading home… finally.

“What a way to end our day, taking in a breath taking panorama like this,” Rex sighs clasping his hands behind his head, “it’s worth the price for admission.”

“Indeed… reminds me of when I was a kid… being out here is all I ever dreamed about.”

“Yeah, me too Rory... my dad put up at least a hundred glow-in-the-dark stars on my bedroom ceiling on my birthday to surprise me. I think I was about twelve. At night, as I watched them glow, I would lie in bed and fantasize about being an astronaut; blasting into outer space on a big rocket ship to go and explore them.”

“Funny… I had those stars too… I loved everything about planes and rockets… in fact; my dad and I spent many rainy day weekends gluing model planes and rockets together. He, would hang all of our completed projects up in my room… there must have been at least fifteen of them. Amazingly, they still hang in my room. I think my ole’ man likes to walk in there now for the memories.”

“Yeah… good memories I’m sure. My parents, especially my dad, inspired me to follow my dream. Dad urged me to set my sights high and go to the Air Force Academy. When I graduated, I did a stint in the Air Force and with a lot of hard work I was accepted by NASA’s manned space program… an amazing ride for me ever since.”

“Bet he was proud… “

“Yeah… I was living his dream. He wanted to be part of the military in the worst way… but they wouldn’t take him… 4F… crushed him I think. I really miss him, he was my best friend… he’s been gone 4 years now.”

“I bet you do.” Trying to lighten the mood just a bit, Rory gave Rex a slap on the arm with the back of his hand… “Bet your path never included fighting aliens from another planet.”

“No, can’t say it did… never entered my mind.”

“I am grateful Rory that my path crossed yours though; glad you were the one on deck to fight them with me today.”

“Thanks, Rex… hearing that from you means a lot to me. I’ve always looked up to you… your experience and your ability to handle difficult situations is amazing… thanks again. You know… sitting here and talking reminds me; when I get back I am going to put glow stars on the baby’s bedroom ceiling.”

“Good idea. But what if it’s a girl?”

“No matter… girls can be astronauts… or at least they can marry one, right?”

“So tell me if you don’t mind, when is Sahara due?”  

“Just shy of six weeks… she really didn’t want me to take this mission assignment with her so near having the baby. I had to remind her that she knew what she signed up for when she married me. I told her when it’s in your blood, it’s just like a drug… you have to have it.”

With a bit of a smirk, Rex asked, “Well, how did she respond to that reasoning?”

“To be honest… she looked at me curiously to see if I was serious and then when she realized I was, she put her arms around me, looked me right in my eyes and with a sweet smile she said, ‘Honey, I support your decision to go 100%’. She put her hands on my face, and then she kissed me… a passionate kiss… one of those kisses you will remember for the rest of your life. We definitely had ourselves a moment.”

“Rory Scott, you’re a lucky man. You’re arriving back early and I would think that should make her happy, don’t you?”

 Looking down and playing with his wedding ring and smiling, “I suppose it will. What about you Rex… you have a girlfriend, right?”

“Did… I broke up with her just before leaving on this mission. I decided it was me or her damn cat… she… well…. chose her mangy old cat.”

“She chose the cat over you? Come on, you’re kidding, right?”

“Unfortunately… no, she took her cat and left.”

“What in God’s name could have possibly been so bad about her cat?”

“She hauled that mangy cat everywhere just like you would a child and for whatever reason the damn cat decided my living room carpet was its own personal urinal… I mean litter box. I just got fed up and couldn’t take it any longer; the smell was horrible and cat hair was everywhere. I should have known she would choose her mangy old cat over me when push came to shove.”

“That’s just funny as hell, Rex. You were kicked to the curb for a mangy old cat?”

“I’m not going to continue this conversation. We need to get some rest. You sleep first and I’ll monitor the com.”

Rory starts laughing hysterically for a minute or two as Rex just ignores him.

“When you’re finished laughing at my expense, why don’t you just go to sleep?

“Fine… ignore me… sleep sounds good.” Laying his head back and knowing, sleep will come quickly, he thinks about Sahara hoping she will join him in his dreams.

Rex checks the instrument panel and seeing no issues, leans back in his chair. The headrest feels comfortable beneath him. He closes his eyes for only a second, but exhaustion overtakes him and he unwillingly nods off to sleep himself.

Twenty five minutes out from re-entering earth’s atmosphere, the cabin’s silence is broken by a loud, near frantic voice speaking over the com line.

“Intrepid do you copy? Intrepid this is Houston control, do you copy?”

Rex roused from a peaceful sleep, reaches quickly for the com headset. Rory, still sleeping, is not disturbed by the com chatter.

“Yes Houston, I read you, over.”

“Captain Huntley our radar has detected a single bogie coming up on your six. At its current velocity, we estimate it will overtake your position in ten minutes.”

“Copy that, Houston… bogie in pursuit coming up on our six.”

Still in a bit of a daze, Rex tries to gather his thoughts, all the while in disbelief that an alien ship is now on their tail, chasing them back to Earth. As his mind clears, he quickly begins to think of his defensive options. Reaching over, he shakes Rory. 

Startled, Rory wakes, “What’s up? How far out are we?”

“We have a problem… Houston has detected a single bogie coming up on our six.”

“How far away is it,” he asks as he moves more upright.

“At our current speed and theirs, they are less than ten minutes out. They are closing fast.”

“Damn aliens at the ISS must have got the com working, signaled for help.” He tells Rex.

“That’s probably what happened; guess we should have killed them when we had the chance.”

Rory feels the reality of the situation fill his thoughts, as he begins to think of Sahara… and the baby. For just an instant, he once again feels the overwhelming sadness as he begins to contemplate the fact that he may never see his wife again, or meet his unborn child. 

Rex, sensing where Rory’s thoughts are going, declares, “Remember what my dad taught me. If all you have to fight with is sticks and stones, then that’s what you fight with.”

His words snapping Rory back into the moment, “I assume then, you have a sticks and stones plan in mind?”

“Yeah, I do… I have one. Houston, I don’t have time to explain but I need you to let me know when the bogie is two minutes out and then again when they are one minute out. It’s the critical intel I need to execute my defensive plan… do you copy Houston?”

“Copy that Captain, understood. Stand by for short snap count.”

“Standing by...”

“What are you thinking, Rex?”

“The Intrepid’s fuel and her emergency flares… deploy them on my order.”

“I think I’m seeing where you might be going with this…”

“Let’s hope they fall for it.”

The minutes tick by as Rex awaits the snap count and Rory readies himself to empty the fuel supply and release the flares.

“Do you really think this trick can work, Rex?”

“I hope so… I really hope so; it’s the only shot we have.”

“I want you to know, that if it doesn’t, I’m damn proud to have had the opportunity to know you and serve with you…”

“Thanks Rory… but it’s gonna work and I’m gonna hold you to that comment the next time you’re complaining about something I make you do. Besides I have every intention of being a godfather to your first born child… so get yourself strapped in tight. We’re going to do a few barrel rolls as you dump the last of our fuel.”

“You’re going to have to time this perfectly.”

“I know… let’s hope my ‘warrior’ intuition is right on the money when the alien pilot decides to fire on us.”

“Bogie is two minutes out, Captain.”

“Get ready to deploy fuel.”

“My finger is on the trigger Rex!”

“Bogie is one minute out.”

“Dump the fuel now!”

“Copy that!”

The fuel sprays out in a white mist behind the Intrepid as Rex executes a series of barrel rolls. Pulling around one G, Rex is confident the ship will hold together although the vibration is intense as the centrifugal force stresses the shuttle’s super structure.

“Come on old girl hold together for me, just a little longer.”

The space shuttle Intrepid moans and groans loudly as if it will fly apart any second.

“She sounds like she’s about to come apart Rex!” Rory shouts out.

“She’ll hold; just hang on.”

With one roll after another; the spraying fuel forms a misty corkscrew pattern in a long tall cloud out behind the Intrepid.

Once again stabilizing the ship, Rex readies Rory for the deployment of the flares knowing that the alien ship, now upon them, will try to destroy them at any moment. 

“Rory, deploy all emergency flares now!”

“Flares away sir...”

The emergency flares deploy just as the alien ship fires and the lit flares ignite the misty fuel droplets causing a massive fireball to explode out behind the Intrepid. The blast, several hundred yards long and seventy-five feet high lights up the darkness of space. At the same time the fuel ignites, Rex noses the Intrepid down hard as the laser shot from the alien ship goes over the top of the Intrepid’s fuselage just missing its intended target. Now, off course from its return flight path and out of the alien’s direct line of fire, several tense minutes go by.

“Well, we’re still in one piece, that’s something to celebrate,” Rory whispers.

“Yeah… so far.”

“Intrepid… Houston control here, do you copy?”

Waiting just a few minutes more, Rex, not knowing whether his communications can be intercepted by the enemy ship, chooses not to answer.

“INTREPID! Houston control here, come in… do you copy?”

“Yes, Houston… we copy. I made a judgement call to wait for a few minutes to make sure that bogie was off our tail.”

“Copy that… whatever you two did up there Captain has caused that alien ship to break off pursuit and head back in the direction of the ISS. We see you deviated manually from the flight plan.”

“Yes, Houston we did. We just created a little fireworks display for the entertainment of our followers; caught them off guard I think… will give you the details when we land. By the way Houston…we will also be coming in hot… no fuel reserves left. We are literally flying in on fumes which, as you know, could possibly cause us to fly in short of the runway.”

“Alright Captain… sit tight. We will get back with you ASAP regarding your deviated approach trajectory; emergency vehicles will be on standby.”

“Thank you Houston… Intrepid standing by.”

***

Back at Houston, the com manager shakes his head, “Damn… can you believe that? Shook that bogie right off his tail… Fireworks, hell! I think he dumped his fuel, deployed the Intrepid’s emergency flares and created his own fireworks show. It would definitely be a formula to create a giant fireball, leaving the impression the ship had been destroyed… brilliant… absolutely a brilliant defensive maneuver.”

“What makes you say that Sir?” another asks.

“Because if you think about it, that’s really all he had to work with and the alien ship broke off pursuit at exactly the moment he dropped manually off the flight plan. It was a brilliant fake out, an optical illusion and an amazing defensive move which required absolute perfect timing for it to work.”

“He said he had a defensive plan, that’s why he asked for a snap count.”

“Wow… hard to imagine he could come up with such a brilliant idea while under such extreme pressure.”

“Huntley… and Scott too… have always been above average in their field. I bet all those alien bastards saw was a bright ball of light that no doubt blurred their entire tracking screen. All they saw was a flash of fire and the only conclusion that could be drawn was they had destroyed their target. The intrepid disappeared from their screen like… well… like magic.”

“Unbelievable… if that’s what happened; you really gotta give them credit. It was a brilliantly executed move.”

“Indeed… indeed it was.”

***

“Have you ever wondered what takes Houston so damn long? What are they doing? Taking a coffee break?” Rory complains.

“I know it feels like it has been a long time, but sometimes it’s really not as long as it seems. It’s just that we’ve had a tough day… we’re tired and there is still quite a bit more to do.”

“Yeah… you’re probably right. You know Rex, I thought we were goners back there… all I could think of was Sahara and the baby... I really froze inside.”

“I know… it crossed my mind too… but you know Rory… I believe we make our destiny… we can let those thoughts take over our mind and let fear fill our soul… or we can shake it off and move boldly to build a different outcome. In the split second it took for that thought to come into my thoughts, I flashed a big HELL NO in my mind, and chose to fight… ”

“With sticks and stones!”

“Well… maybe a little more than sticks and stones…” as both men laugh.

“Intrepid, this is Houston, do you copy?”

“Yes Houston, we copy.”

“Captain Huntley, we want you to stay on your current flight path. We see no issues and your current flight path will put you safely on the White Sands tarmac in approximately eighteen minutes. We are sending up a pair of F-15’s that will join you at 60,000 ft., just in case the alien ship decides to return. They will watch your back on your descent.”

“Copy that Houston… and thanks for the help. Are there any cold beers down there by chance?”

“I’m sure we can find a rack and have it put on ice for you and Captain Scott. We will see you shortly. Let us know when you have a visual on those fighters.”

“Copy that… and don’t forget those beers!”

“Yeah… a cold brewski does sound mighty good,” Rory smiles.

At 60,000 feet, two F-15s join them as the Space Shuttle Intrepid descends into earth’s atmosphere.

“Came to join the party Captain Huntley; your bird looks good from here.”

“Who am I speaking with?

“Lieutenant Sparks, Sir. We’ll cover your six for landing.”

“Copy that, Lieutenant. Captain Scott and I appreciate the help. Houston we have our escort.”

”Very good Captain we are standing by for your landing.”

“Feels good to have them covering our back door,” Rory sighs.

“Yeah… now all I have to worry about is putting this bird down in one piece.”

On final approach to White Sands, Rex has a clear visual on the runway and gets ready to lower the landing gear, readying the Intrepid for landing. With beads of sweat forming on his brow, he knows with no fuel reserves he has only one shot to land safely.

“You know Rory; it makes me a tad nervous watching that fuel gauge… I hate being reminded that this bird is flying in on fumes.”

“Buddy, you’re a damn good pilot and you know this bird better than the engineers… she won’t let you down…”

“Hope you’re right… here we go. Just remember… she’ll be heavy handed, if she completely runs out of fuel.”

“Copy that. Landing gear coming down, positive lock, be on the tarmac in 3 minutes… checking flaps… flaps down. We are a go for landing.”

“Give me distance to the tarmac starting at 200 feet.”

“Copy that Rex, 200 feet.”

“This is White Sands Tower; we have a visual on you Intrepid.”

“Copy that Tower; how’s our flight path looking?”

“Your flight path on radar says the runway is all yours Captain.”

“Copy that Tower, Intrepid out.”

Rory, turning to the altimeter and saying a quick prayer to himself, checks his safety harness. We are at 200 feet Captain… 150… 100... 50…”

With a very loud clunking noise the Intrepid, now completely out of fuel, literally drops on the runway, tires screeching. Deploying Intrepid’s deceleration parachute and with no reverse thrusters, it takes both Huntley and Scott braking to hold the big bird squarely on the tarmac. If there is such a thing as a text-book landing with no fuel, this was one. 

With the Intrepid now at a complete stop and the smell of burning rubber filling the cabin, the two men sit back and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

“Wow… this has been a little too much flying excitement for one day,” Rory chuckles. “Barrel rolls nearly made me puke, a giant fire ball exploding and a hair-raising landing… this is what I call a real adrenalin rush of a day!”

“Yep, you’re right on that count… perhaps we can top it next trip… what d’ya think?” Rex laughs as he unbuckles his harness and climbs up out of his chair.

“Well… let me sum that up in just one… no, let me make it two words… HELL NO! Now, where were they putting those beers on ice and damn, I hope there’s food… hot food, I’m starving… never did have lunch.”

“Yeah, you better talk to your Union… you’re starting to look a little thin, now that I take a good hard look at you.”

“Yeah… a big juicy cheeseburger with an ice-cold beer… a man can’t do much better than that when he is hungry and thirsty… at least as far as I’m concerned.”

“You’re right on. That sounds mighty good, but I wouldn’t count on time to eat right away.

“Why not? I’m starving here.”

“We have a lot of nervous and anxious people waiting to talk to us. Also, keep in mind that it may be hours or even days before we are able to leave here for home.”

“I hear what you’re saying but, you being the senior officer, I think it best you talk to the top brass and the base doctors or whoever… me… I’m heading to get some chow and to call Sahara,” he laughs as he stands up and stretches his arms up over his head. As he starts walking towards the door to release the locks on the exit door, he looks back to see Rex shaking his head as if to say ‘no way’.

As the door opens, there is a rush of fresh air from the outside. Rex is happy to see the jet way is being moved up to the door. Looking out the door over a beautiful landscape before them, Rory turns and looks at Rex, “You know, when we step onto that ramp, our lives and everyone else’s will never be the same. This alien presence will change the entire world as we know it… forever.”

“You’re no doubt right about that… the aliens have changed mankind’s reality, his future… and nothing will ever be the same… nothing ."

 

***********************************************************************************************************************

Finally safe back home, Rex and Rory understand this is just the beginning and what happens next is anyones guess. Our reluctant warriors will shape mankinds destiny for the next 1,000 years.

More chapters soon! 


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